A couple years ago I discovered the book “Getting Things Done – the art of stress free productivity” by David Allen. I got very excited about it and set up my own GTD system. But after a few weeks of using it, or trying to use it, I gave up and went back to my old habits.
Although I felt disgusted with myself, I did learn some great tricks, like if something can be done in under two minutes, do it. And keeping your email inbox to zero. I also learned that there are a ton of productivity hacks on the internet. It’s a huge industry. Some of my favorites are those videos where you learn how to do stuff with every day items like 15 cool things you can do with Binder Clips.
A few weeks ago I decided to try the GTD system again. Why? Because I started to feel like my life was getting out of control. What prompted this? I had a gig! A solo acoustic one man show kind of gig where all eyes would be on me for two sets. I hadn’t played a full on Alex Walsh Show in about a year. The act of preparing for it made me realize how much stuff I had piled up in my brain and how out of sorts my home office space was.
When I started looking at GTD again I realized I had been too hasty the first time around. I was trying to change too many habits all at the same time, something I read about in The Power of Habit. There are lots of experiences of people online who have used GTD for the past fifteen years or so. Many say it’s something that is easy to fall off, and easy to get back on. The interesting thing to me about GTD is that it doesn’t start with the big questions, like ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ or give profound instructions like ‘follow your passion’. Those questions and ideas are valid but the place to start in the GTD system is with everything that has your attention right now.
My “right now” had to do with my upcoming gig. I knew I wasn’t going to do a total revamping of my entire life just to get ready for one show, but getting started helped me create some mental peace and clarity.
The basic idea of GTD is that our brains are designed to process and plan and make decisions and dream of possibilities. They are not very good at remembering things. The solution is to get everything out of your head into an external system that you trust and is easy to use.
The key words are everything, trust, and easy.
The outcome is you will have a “Mind Like Water”, a term David Allen said he got from studying karate.
GTD (Getting Things Done) uses a simple five step process for what to do with all the stuff in your head:
- Capture – collect what has your attention
- Clarify – Process what it means
- Organize – Put it where it belongs
- Reflect – Review Frequently
- Engage – Simply do
You have to use this process for everything that comes at you, personally and professionally, in order to get the “Mind Like Water” experience. “Mind Like Water” is the same idea as “Flow”, or “Getting In The Zone”, all popular terms these days.
For me, walking around in a constant state of flow sounds exhilarating. Who wouldn’t want that?
I’m happy to say my show turned out to be one of my most successful solo gigs ever, on many levels, including not being distracted by my own random thoughts.
I’m continuing to get the GTD system into my DNA. It’s a challenge but I think it will be worth it.